Hunan Restaurant 湖南少官 in Rowland Heights, CA

Hunan Restaurant 湖南少官 in Rowland Heights, CA

One of two locations (the other being in Monterey Park) serving up reasonably priced Hunan dishes.  Dishes that were made with a combination of dried red chiles and fresh green chiles offered a nice spicy kick to them.  The only dish we didn’t enjoy was the steamed tilapia.  Tilapia is a bottom dweller in the ocean and has been known to eat sludge from the ocean floor.  That is one of the reasons tilapia can have a muddy flavor to the meat.

Service was decent, and the price point was very affordable (For our table of 6, the cost of dinner with tax and an 18% gratuity was only $18.00 per person).  I’ve posted the entire menu, as it cannot be found anywhere (except, possibly on Yelp).

 

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Brunch at the First Los Angeles Area Location of Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 in Arcadia, CA

Brunch at the First Los Angeles Area Location of Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 in Arcadia, CA

After dining at the newest Din Tai Fung location in Century City, I was quite disappointed by the food there.  Many of the dishes were prepared well, but there just seemed to be a certain blandness to the food.  So, I decided to bring my foodie group here for brunch yesterday, and I thoroughly enjoyed the food so much more.  I don’t know if it’s because the food is prepared better (I found the meat fillings for the xiao long bao and dumplings to be better seasoned here).

The benefit of having dined with a large group of people was the ability to order a larger variety of dishes to taste, and we tasted at least one dish from every category of dishes on their menu.  Unfortunately, eating at Din Tai Fung is no longer an inexpensive meal.  Here, the meal cost $36 per person, which included tax and 18% gratuity.

The fun thing about the original location was the fact that it was not packed when they opened.  There were no crowds, no lines.  The tables didn’t fill up until about Noon.  This was definitely a much more relaxed location to eat at.  The servers were fully knowledgeable of the food completely, and they were rushed.  Food arrived at a much more gradual pace.  All in all, it was a much more pleasant dining experience than any of the other locations I’ve eaten at.

Lobster & Steak Express in West Covina, CA

Lobster & Steak Express in West Covina, CA

Unusual little place inside Hong Kong Plaza in West Covina.  With a name like Lobster & Steak Express, one would not have expected them to be a Chinese restaurant that services up dishes similar to those you would find at Newport Seafood and Boston Lobster in San Gabriel.

Though steak has now been removed from their menu, lobster is still available, and when we dined here almost a month ago, it was sold at $17.95 per pound, about the same pricing as Boston Lobster.  The preparation of their lobster is good, but not as great as Newport Seafood nor Boston Lobster.  The rest of their dishes were solid as well, with the exception of the Fish Filet with Fried Garlic.

The fish was overly battered, and there was not enough garlic to bring out that intoxicating smell of fried garlic.  The result was fish fliet pieces that were not crunchy not well seasoned.  The other dish that is not recommended is their Deep Fried Dumplings, which were store bought frozen.

 

Dinner at Sichuan Impression 锦城里 in Westwood/West Los Angeles

Dinner at Sichuan Impression 锦城里 in Westwood/West Los Angeles

If you’re a Chinese foodie, then you’ve been waiting for Sichuan Impression to open in the Westside since it was announced that they acquired the location that used house Jin Jiang, a Chinese American style restaurant (similar to those like Yang Chow in Chinatown) that was in business for over 25 years before shuttering this summer.

Sichuan Impression originally wanted to open last Sunday, but they didn’t quite finish setting up the place, so Tuesday became their opening day.  They opened with little fanfare, and by Thursday, they have been written up by EaterLA.  Since yesterday’s lunch service, long queues began for form as many locals, particularly ex-pats who work or study at UCLA come down for a bite one of Southern California’s most popular Sichuanese restaurants.

And they didn’t disappoint.  They brought in a chef from Chengdu to work with the other chefs and kitchen staff to create new dishes for this location, as well as ensuring that the kitchen churn out dish after dish of deliciousness.

The dishes, for the most part, are just as good as those at the Alhambra location.  One major difference here is obviously the prices, as they are slightly higher, compensating for the higher rents on the Westside.

Of all the dishes we ordered tonight, only the Impressive Sausages, Impressive Cold Noodles and the Wontons in Spicy Chile Oil didn’t impress me at all.  Flavorwise, they were rather ordinary, and the texture of the cold noodles (versus room temperature noodles) were unpleasant.

Delicious were the Bean Jelly, Steamed Chicken in Chile Sauce, Kung Pao Chicken, Stir Fried Lamb with Cumin, Mapo Tofu and Fish Filet with Rattan Pepper all sang with a depth of flavor with the expected spiciness from the chiles and numbing effect from the Sichuan peppercorns.

For their first week, they’re doing well with service and, especially, the preparation of the dishes.  Once the servers get into their groove, then things will be running like a well oiled machine.  The host station still needs more time to be able to answer questions by customers waiting for 20 or 30 or 45 minutes for a table and better keep order around the host station.

No reservations taken.  Just put your name, contact number and the number of people in your party and wait…but make sure everyone in your party is present when called as they may refuse to seat you not everyone’s present.

Now, if they could have spent some money renovating the restrooms.  The main dining room looks new, but the restrooms remind me of Chinese restaurants from back in the 1980s.

Sichuanese Dinner at Spicy City 重庆麻辣成 in San Gabriel, CA

Sichuanese Dinner at Spicy City 重庆麻辣成 in San Gabriel, CA

Walking into Spicy City last Sunday night, we were caught off guard by the new furnishings and new tableware/settings.  The servers had to reassure us that that was all that changed with the restaurant.  They still have the same chefs and still churn out delicious Sichuanese food that we’ve grown to love over the last 4 years.

Even their menus are new, although I preferred the old menus as they had photos of all the menu items, making it easier to identify what you want to order and what else looks tempting to try.

Food is almost as good as the last time we ate here.  There were a couple of noticeable changes.  The Rattan Pepper Fish didn’t seem to have the depth of flavors as before.  There was definitely Ma (numbing quality from the Sichuan peppercorns), but not enough La (spiciness from the chiles).  The Lamb Chops were tasty, but they’re really serving you lamb ribs as opposed to lamb chops, where you’d expect a nice portion of meat attached to the bone (which was what we had the last time we were here several months ago).

Other than that, we enjoyed the food and appreciated them fulfilling a couple of requests, such as preparing the Fried Shrimp with Red Chilis with shelled shrimps rather than with the whole shrimp (shell and head attached).

And while we didn’t take advantage of ordering desserts, we were served complimentary plates watermelon and assorted moon cakes (as this the time of the Chinese Autumn Festival).

As always, click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

UPDATED: Ordering Off the Chinese Only Menu at Embassy Kitchen 彌敦閣 in San Gabriel, CA

UPDATED: Ordering Off the Chinese Only Menu at Embassy Kitchen 彌敦閣 in San Gabriel, CA

Updated: Added photos of the Crispy Boneless Chicken Stuffed with Sticky Rice, Imitation Shark’s Fin with Egg Whites, Crispy Bean Curd with Bamboo Pith and Shrimp Roe Sauce, and Oyster Omelette.

If you’re able to order off their Chinese only menu, then you open yourself up to a culinary adventure you don’t find in many Hong Kong style Cantonese restaurants.  Some of these dishes require extra time to prepare, and therefor need to be ordered in advanced.

The best of these dishes is the Crispy Boneless Chicken Stuffed with Shrimp Paste.  The skin was crispy, and the shrimp paste was flavorful, making every bite delicious.  With a larger party, we had 1 1/2 orders of the chicken on the plate, and that amount made for an impressive presentation

There is another Crispy Boneless Chicken that’s stuffed with sticky rice instead.  While the presentation was nice, it wasn’t as enjoyable to eat.  The sticky rice didn’t add much flavor to the the chicken.

Both of these chicken dishes, as well as the Stuffed Chicken Wings and the Tilapia Rolls, need to be ordered 24 hours in advance as these dishes are more labor intensive.  Each of these dishes is around $40-$50.

Tilapia Rolls were unique to me, as you bite into pickled red ginger along with thousand year old egg.  The sulfuric flavor of the egg could be somewhat offputting to some, especially when combined with the tart and spiciness of the ginger.

Aside from preparing these elaborate dishes well, they’re good at the simpler dishes as well such as the Scrambled Egg with Shrimp.  The scrambled egg is well seasoned and is cooked to the point where the eggs remain wet, which prevents it from overcooking and drying out when it sits on the plate for a few minutes.

The pricing is on the higher side when compared to other restaurants such as Sam Woo and Sham Tseng.

Yunnan & Sichuan Dishes at Yunnan Restaurant 雲南過橋園 in Monterey Park, CA

Yunnan & Sichuan Dishes at Yunnan Restaurant 雲南過橋園 in Monterey Park, CA

When eating Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley of Greater Los Angeles, there are only a few Chinese restaurants that specialize Yunnan cuisine.  It’s probably not easy to offer considering it’s province of China that features over dozens and dozens of minority ethnic groups, such as the Miao, Dai and Bai peoples, and many of the dishes are made with regional ingredients we most likely don’t have in the U.S.

From what little research I have done, I found that Yunnan Restaurant offer at least a half dozen of dishes that are popular within that region of China, such as the every so popular Yunnan House Special (Crossing Bridges) Rice Noodle Soup with boned-in Chicken, and square slices of sandwich ham meat.   This dish was served table side, where a server will bring out all the ingredients on a compartmental tray and then start mixing them into the broth, followed by the long thick strands of rice noodles.  It was hearty but a light dish as well.

The Cured Pork with Leeks was tasty, but was too salty.  The same can be said for the Yunnan Dried Beef, which was a little salty and chewy.

We supplemented the rest of dinner by ordering some of the more Sichuan dishes such as the Kung Pao Chicken and the Chungking Style Spicy Shrimp (it’s normally whole shrimps with shells deep fried, but they offered to prepare a version with shelled shrimps.  I wonder if that was suggested to us since our table was half non-Chinese.  We opted for the shelled version).  These 2 dishes were stand outs for me.   We enjoyed the slight sweetness in the Kung Pao Chicken.  So much so, that we finished the dish in minutes.

Though the rest of the dishes ordered were good, they didn’t have enough Sichuan peppercorns nor the ma-la flavor profile to make the dishes sing.  Nevertheless, price-wise, you get ample amounts of food for your money, and that Cold Appetizers Bar at the front of the restaurant is a much try.